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Update: Beach closure avoided after discharge pipe breaks

A speedy report of a broken wastewater treatment discharge pipe by an Oak Harbor resident and quick action by the city kept a stretch of Windjammer Park shoreline open over the weekend.

City Engineer Eric Johnston said since they were able to quickly shut down the flow from the Windjammer plant and divert it to the treatment lagoon, the Health Department decided not to close the beach.

Johnston said the Island County Health Department took a “second look” and decided the beach could remain open. The department initially called for the closure of the beach upon first being notified of the pipe rupture Friday morning.

An Oak Harbor resident reported the break Friday morning after noticing water coming out of the ground about 200 feet from the shoreline, Johnston said.

The break doesn’t pose a health risk because the discharge water flow is being diverted to the Seaplane Base lagoon, he said.

Wastewater that normally flows to the plant at Windjammer Park will be diverted to the Seaplane Base treatment facility until the pipe is repaired, Johnston said.

Johnston planned to bring an emergency resolution to the City Council to hasten the repair process. He’s hopeful repairs will start next week, although the cost is yet to be determined because the amount of damage is unknown.

“The cost could be as high as $75,000 because we don’t know and can’t see the damage yet,” he said.

The pipe’s marine location will pose many challenges for the repair crew because of the sensitive beach environment and changing tides.

Repairs will likely require a dive crew, he said.

The Windjammer Wastewater Treatment Facility was constructed in 1956 and the break in the original, 18-inch corrugated metal pipe was likely due to corrosion, he said.

Five years from now Oak Harbor may have a new wastewater treatment facility if current plans for a new plant continue on schedule. The next step in the project is the creation of a “facility plan” or the “how and where” of a new wastewater treatment plant, Johnston said.

The old methods of wastewater treatment — through the Windjammer plant and Seaplane Base lagoons — have reached the end of their useful life, he said.

The Windjammer facility, specifically, “simply needs to be replaced,” he said.

Age, wear and tear are the biggest factors for a new facility along the shoreline. A different problem — flooding — plagues the lagoon treatment plant.

“The Navy is actively working to protect the treatment plant,” he said of flooding at the lagoon, which began as a result of the re-opening of the Crescent Harbor Marsh about a year ago. “They’ve spent an extensive amount of money on the problem.”

Flooding has brought the use of the lagoon as a wastewater treatment facility as a viable, future treatment site into question, he said.

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